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John Muir Trail

Day 7 of 22

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Wednesday, July 22nd
Rosalie Lake to Crater Creek
12.9 miles
1780 vertical feet (ascent)
2510 vertical feet (descent)

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GPX File

We were now almost back on schedule. After viewing some peaceful lake reflections in the morning, we were a little delayed in getting started in the morning. Eventually we did get going, but not until 9:50am, which would be our latest start on the trip.

Rosalie Lake reflections

Morning fog on Rosalie Lake

Rosalie Lake reflections

Rosalie Lake reflections

We left camp and then followed the trail along the northern and eastern shores of Rosalie Lake. After crossing the outlet stream and getting sidetracked into some empty campsites, we continued along the trail as it climbed about 250 feet to Gladys Lake. This lake was our original camping goal for the previous day, but it's much smaller than Rosalie Lake and doesn't appear to have as much camping available. So we were glad we had camped at Rosalie.

Gladys Lake

Gladys Lake

Today was mostly clear and we hoped that the rain would finally let up today. After climbing about 100 feet out of the Gladys Lake basin, it was all downhill for a long time - 2200 feet of downhill, in fact. Along the way we stopped at one of the small Trinity Lakes for a food break. From there, the descent was long but pretty easy, without too much in the way of views (it was forested pretty much the whole way).

One of the Trinity Lakes

After about 1500 feet of descent (from Gladys Lake), we reached Johnston Meadow, then turned left at the intersection. Here the trail levels off for about 0.7 miles, crossing a creek before reaching another intersection and resuming a steep descent.

Around this time the trail breaks out of the forest, providing views of Mammoth Mountain to the east. I had heard that if you can see Mammoth Mountain, you can probably get cell phone reception. Wanting to check the weather, I turned on my phone and indeed got signal. Chance of rain today, but clearing starting tomorrow (and clear for the next several days). I also sent a message to let our resupply friends know we were on schedule.

Mammoth Mountain (back)

At the next intersection we ran into a group of hikers who advised us that if we wanted to go to Reds Meadow Resort, we should probably get off the JMT and take the left fork. My oldest son really wanted a cheeseburger, and we could use some other lunch food, so we decided we would visit the resort even though we didn't have a resupply there.

Turning left also meant that we'd get a good view of Devils Postpile. We had visited the park years ago, doing a day hike past the top of the postpile and visiting Rainbow Falls. This was the first time we'd see the bottom of the postpile, though. It's an impressive sight.

Devils Postpile

Devils Postpile

While we were there, we happened to run into the same group that camped near us at Illilouette Creek (the Cullen family). We hadn't seem them since Day 2. They were doing a resupply at Reds Meadow Resort and were spending the night there. We still had about 3 miles of uphill to go to our campsite, and that was after reaching the resort.

At the next intersection, I saw a sign that said Reds Meadow to the left, but that wasn't for the resort but rather the meadow. I wasn't sure from the map whether we should take that or rejoin the JMT at this point. We decided to keep right and rejoin the JMT before reaching the resort; this was a mistake, as taking the left fork would undoubtedly have been easier. As it was, we had to take a slightly longer and uphill route to the resort. Still, we got to the resort all the same, around 2:45pm.

The resort has a cafe and a store. We purchased a few granola bars and corn nuts to supplement our dwindling lunch supplies. Then we stopped in the cafe for some cheeseburgers that the kids devoured. Be prepared to stay here a bit, though, since you have to eat in the cafe (not outside like you can at Tuolumne Meadows).

The Cullen family was here, as was the couple we'd seen on Day 2, though we didn't get a chance to talk to them. It was past 4pm and we needed to get going. After dumping our garbage, we were finally off a bit past 4pm, leaving all the other hikers who were spending the night here (either in a bed or a campground).

From the resort, it was about 850 feet of climbing (in about 3 miles) up to our campsite at Crater Creek. First, we had to climb through an area burned by the 1992 Rainbow Fire. Burned trees spread out as far as we could see. It was now overcast but still warm, rain clouds sort of looking mildly threatening, and even some distant thunder. We would end up feeling a few raindrops but nothing to even prompt us to put on our pack covers.

Entering the burned area

Area burned by the Rainbow Fire

Crepuscular rays

As we climbed, I regretted eating that cheeseburger. But it tasted so good at the time I ate it. At least the climb was very gradual. I saw one backpacker on the way down and asked him about Crater Creek. He assured me that there was ample camping up there.

More of the area burned by the Rainbow Fire

As we hiked we could see one of the Red Cones clearly visible above. That was basically where we were headed. Eventually we exited the burned area and entered the forest, then started switchbacking (still gradually) up the slope. By the time we reached the top, the clouds were clearing. We crossed a bridge over Crater Creek, just as the sun sparkled onto a campsite there. We continued a little further to find ample campsites further along near the creek. We chose one with a nice view of the other (shorter) Red Cone, looking so tantalizing close that we were almost compelled to climb it (but we didn't). It looks like it would be an easy day hike to climb one (or both) starting at Horseshoe Lake (which I've visited in the past on a short hike to McLeod Lake).

Hiking toward Red Cones (top center)

One of the Red Cones

Though I know many hikers had opted to stay in Reds Meadow for the night, I was glad to have put this climb behind us, making tomorrow's hike that much shorter. By the time we finished dinner, the skies were completely clear and we looked forward to good weather the next few days, though it was definitely colder now.

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